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Celebrating People, Places & the Good Life in SW Washington State
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Category — Shops to Love

Shops to Love: Kazoodles

Assignment: Find fun birthday gifts for our two-year-old granddaughter.

Perfect Location: Kazoodles in east Vancouver.

Result: Mission accomplished!

If nominations were solicited for the happiest store in the area, Kazoodles would be at the top of the list. Filled with “kid-powered toys,” store owners Mary and Bob Sisson bundle fun and education together with high-quality products for children of all ages. They opened the original Kazoodles store in downtown Vancouver in 2006 and later moved to their current location at 13503 SE Mill Plain Blvd in east Vancouver. (Click on the photos for a larger view of the shop.)

Mary, Bob and Luka Sisson

The store is beautifully organized by age and interest. Wise advice for toy selection is readily available.

A store filled with goodies for kids, parents and grandparents

Can we buy a little of everything?

A reading corner offers children’s books and a comfy place to read. Storytimes for pre-schoolers are held on Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m. Check the store calendar for other events like “Crafternoons.”

Reading corner

Groovy Girls waiting to be adopted

Fun way to wake up!

Puppets on a Stick

Three-headed dragon

The store Web site offers lots of gift ideas and is organized by age and interest. Another great feature is free gift wrap. Thanks, Bob!

Free gift wrap!

While the store is filled with fun and games, sometimes a shop dog just needs a nap.

Every shop needs a dog or cat

Kazoodles goal is to offer toys that are stimulating, safe, well-made, and most of all, fun. Whether you have toys, games and books on your shopping list, or not, check out this charming store!

A great place for ALL ages!

February 18, 2013   No Comments

Shops to Love: Sweet Spot Skirts

Stephanie Carroll, Owner of Sweet Spot Skirts in Downtown Vancouver

Stephanie Carroll is an evangelist. She’s a vocal advocate for sporty, comfortable skirts and women are following her lead, converting their wardrobes to include her designs, which are worn over tights and other sportswear.

As a Vancouver real estate agent, Stephanie zipped around town by bike to visit her listings. “I used to wear a little disco skirt when I ran around checking my flyer boxes and taking photos.” When she received compliments about her short skirt, which covered her biking clothes, from two male acquaintances, the proverbial light bulb went off. “I think I can do better” with a skirt design, she thought.

Birth of a business
In February 2010 she took 45 skirts, all made by local seamstresses, to a bike swap in Seattle. She sold out and immediately filed for business incorporation of her Vancouver, WA-based Sweet Spot™ Skirts®.

At the beginning “it was a bookkeeper, myself and a seamer,” she says.” I was working out of my 9’ x 9’ bedroom in Vancouver. I lived frugally. The bedroom I was working in, I just stacked fabric and it was crazy.”

Fabric on display.

Stephanie continued to hire local seamstresses. In 2011 she hired a marketing director and they hit the road, selling skirts at events. “As a designer and creator of these items that these women love – I have tried my skirts on 2,000 plus women over just the last few months.”

Whether selling products from her downtown Vancouver shop, on her Web site at or from her 16’ Airstream trailer at events, Stephanie is attracting major attention with her designs.

Taking the skirts on the road, marketing with social media
Selling on the road is hard work, she says, but worth it. She spent July in the Midwest, selling her skirts at events like RAGBRAI, a 10,000-rider bicycle trip across Iowa.

While events have been a marketing mainstay , social media, particularly Facebook, has been the #1 sales tool for Sweet Spot Skirts, Stephanie says.  And hiring a marketing director was a turning point. “The marketing director has almost doubled or tripled our online sales and our exposure and she has been key to growing the revenue.”

Stephanie’s goals for  Sweet Spot Skirts are simple:

  1. Have fun.
  2. When goal #1 is done… Have a little bit more fun!
  3. Stay out of debt.

Skirts sewn on-site

Quality design, up close and personal

They hope to saturate the biking community with the bright, reversible skirts and outfit women for other sports including golf, yoga, running and tennis, among others. Future plans for growth include a big November 2012 release of a children’s line, new “flirty” skirts and kilts. She would like to eventually have a manufacturing site in Vancouver. “We are not going to go to China,” Stephanie says. “If we can’t grow this thing in the United States, we have to make it happen, we have to figure out a way.”

Sweet Spot Skirts Shop

Creating a headquarters in Vancouver
The downtown Vancouver store is a hub for the business. Located in the former Sixth Street Gallery at 105 W. 6th, the shop features wood floors, stacks of the colorful skirts and bolts of fabric where “you can go to the wall and pick out your fabric and have your skirt made,” Stephanie says.  There is no extra charge for the custom skirts. An operations director and store manager spend their days creating skirts and prototypes as well as assisting customers.

“We are working when people walk in. This is more of a manufacturing site. We call it our destination retail. You can come in and have a cup of coffee, you can have your skirt made, you can rent a bike.” Skirts that are sold wholesale are manufactured in Wilsonville.

Skirts on display

More skirts!

Proskins, jerseys and hats

Flipside Hats from Portland

Displays of the skirts, which sell for $69, are featured in the front along with hats by Flipside Hats, Proskins and Moxie Cycling Jerseys. The store offers bike rentals by the hour. The shop, which has the open feel of the former gallery including rotating art exhibits, is available for special events like bachelorette and birthday parties. They partner with local businesses like Top Shelf, which provides food and drink across the street from the shop.

Bikes for rent

Bike helmets

When asked what would surprise people about Stephanie, who is a whirlwind of ideas, her staff is unanimous: “She doesn’t sew a stitch!”

“I don’t know anything about sewing,” Stephanie admits. “I just know what I want it to look like.”

Shops (and Skirts) to Love: Sweet Spot Skirts

Stephanie may not sew but she knows how to envision and sell her popular skirts. Check out Stephanie’s designs, the work of her seamstresses and other products at Sweet Spot Skirts in Vancouver at 105 W. 6th Street, at www.SweetSpotSkirts.comSweet Spot Skirts on Facebook or the company blog.



August 15, 2012   2 Comments

Celebrating National Pie Day in Southwest Washington

“Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness.” – Jane Austen, 1815

Some holidays shouldn’t be skipped. I’m adding National Pie Day to the list. Why is January 23 THE pie day? “Because celebrating the goodness of pie is as easy as 1-2-3,” says the American Pie Council, which created the holiday. In the words of Bobby Hill from King of the Hill, “You had me at fruit pies.” Me, too, Bobby.

In celebration of National Pie Day, we planned a Saturday morning field trip to Sweetie Pies in downtown Vancouver. Entering the shop, the scent of hot cinnamon rolls bowls us over. Is there a National Cinnamon Roll Day? Note to self: Research that holiday, too. Actually, National Cinnamon Bun Day (Kanelbullens Dag) is October 4 in Sweden. Another note to self: Future road trip?

Sweetie Pies in downtown Vancouver

Back to our closer-to-home research, Linda Davis opened Sweetie Pies in November 2011 in a shared space with Swoon at 1006 Main Street in downtown Vancouver. The pie shop is complemented by Swoon’s collection of antiques, vintage, resale and hand made clothing, jewelry and art among other collectibles.

A baker of pies for 40 years, Linda knows her pastries. Under her mother’s tutelage, she baked her first pie at age 13 or 14 in New York State. A former owner of Antiques and Country Décor in Camas, this businesswoman is now a professional baker.

Today’s selections include rhubarb and mixed berry pies. They share the counter with cinnamon rolls, lemon bars and cookies. Three of Linda’s collection of 30 or so vintage rolling pins hang on the wall.

Pastries of the day

Linda serves up hot cinnamon rolls behind the counter displaying rhubarb and mixed berry pies

A perfect crust

Making a decent crust has always been the downfall of this blogger. Linda’s advice? Don’t overhandle the dough. Don’t use too much water. Use ice water and keep everything cold including utensils and bowls, which can be kept in the freezer until needed. “The colder the better,” she says. Keep the dough in the fridge for 20 minutes.

The perfect research project

Moment of pie-tasting truth

After tasting Linda’s pies, I make a silent pledge to permanently give up frozen, store-bought pie crusts. Sweetie Pies’ crusts are flaky and buttery. The fruit-fillings are perfectly sweetened and downright succulent. This being 10 a.m. and election season, I’m thinking that “Pie for breakfast” would make an excellent campaign slogan. Why not? “Pie is the food of the heroic. No pie eating nation can ever be vanquished,” the New York Times allegedly reported in 1902.

The very happy pie taster

Linda Davis, Piemaker

So let’s celebrate! The American Pie Council suggests making, eating and/or giving a pie on the day. Other days work, too, no doubt. Find their history of pies and pie making tips here.

Pie Recommendations for Southwest Washington
Here is a handy pie reference list, recommended by genuine pie eaters (thanks, Gian and Franji!) in Southwest Washington. Feel free to add your favorites by commenting.

VANCOUVER– Sweetie Pies – Try everything!
LONGVIEW Judy’s Restaurant and Catering – with high recommendations for Peanut Butter Pie, Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Pie and Marionberry Pie
CHEHALISMarket Street Bakery and Cafe – with accolades for the Marionberry Tart
CENTRALIAThe Good Lunch – Oatmeal Pie especially suggested
CENTRALIABerry Fields – all pies recommended
WHITE SALMONSweet Things Kitchen – also available in Stevenson at the A&J Select Market and Chuck’s Produce in Vancouver
OCEAN PARKFull Circle Café – Check out their daily menu

And if you want to watch a quirky, fun movie about pies while enjoying your dessert, check out Waitress with Keri Russell, Jeremy Sisto and Nathan Fillon. It will be impossible to NOT crave pie while watching this film.

Get out there and eat pie!

And remember: January 23, 2012 is also the first day of Chinese New Year (aka Lunar New Year) but that’s another story. For a 2010 ZEST post on this colorful holiday celebrated by billions, visit Gung Hay Fat Choy!

January 22, 2012   1 Comment

Sipping and Strolling

One of the best Vancouver events of the year is Sip & Stroll. This year, more than 35 downtown and uptown shops and restaurants offered tastings of wine, beer and non-alcoholic drinks to benefit the Hough Foundation.

Starting at Brickhouse Bar & Grill, the event was especially interesting when it featured new businesses. What a selection! From a pole dancing studio to Bad Monkey Bikes, a barber shop (Moe’s) to the newly renovated Kiggins Theater, a karate studio to Arnada Naturals and Music with Miss Mindi, new shops were interspersed with old favorites like Tommy O’s and Urban Eccentric.

By the end of the evening, $15,000 was raised for the Hough Elementary School Family Resource Center, which provides a clothes closet, snacks, school supplies, an after school music program and volunteer support for students and teachers.

Here are a few photo highlights of Sip & Stroll:

Kristin from Small Vineyards at Niche Wine Bar

Beer Tasting at Most Everything

Alisa Tetreault, Owner of Most Everything

Linda Lee and friend at Linda Lee's Lingerie & Pole 4 Fun

Paul Montegue at Moe's

English Estates at Neighbors Market

Lynn Krogseng, Owner of Neighbors Market

The Cat's Pajamas on Broadway

Tasting at Cat's Pajamas

Sweets at Not Too Shabby

Benke Cellars at Mint Tea

Miss Mindi of Music with Miss Mindi

Music at Vancouver Pizza

Dennis Pfendler, Owner of Uptown Karate

Sipper and Stroller on a Jungle Couch

Too much to drink? Time to go home...

July 27, 2011   2 Comments

Shops to Love: Shorty’s Gift Store

Where is the most beautiful shop in Southwest Washington? Nope! Even if we knew, we wouldn’t say. One of the shops that would surely be on the list, however, would be Shorty’s Gift Store. The store is located in Shorty’s Garden and Home at 10006 Mill Plain Boulevard in Vancouver. (A second nursery is located at 705 NE 199th St north of the Clark County Fairgrounds on the east side of I-5.)

Here are a few of the lovely objects (and one furry mammal) found in the shop, which is delightfully decorated by Ines Mahoney:

Artful displays fill the shop.

Welcome plaques suggest umbrella-free days. (Wouldn't a dry day be nice?!)

Garden worthy gnomes gaze at shoppers.

Fairies watch over the shop.

More fairies...

A fairy hanging with the monkeys.

Unique bunnies are available for Easter.

Rain boots with a stylish attitude.

A plethora of plants with a guard keeping watch over the foliage.

An elegant chandelier for the diningroom.

Fine dining under the chandelier.

Vibrant wool blossoms.

Colorful coin purses.

Birds for spring decor.

Beautiful floral cards.

Lily the cat keeps a watchful eye on the shop, and the shoppers.

The gift store is stocked year round. Pots of all sizes and statues are displayed outside around the nursery. And plants, shrubs and trees are arriving for spring planting at both stores. Bantam and Grouse is open for British-style food at the Mill Plain store. Check out Shorty’s Garden and Home for hours and special events. See you in the garden!

February 23, 2011   2 Comments

Woman with a Repurpose: Scarves and Rugs from Pendleton Fabric and Yarns

Rebecca Weaver is a “repurposer.” Each week, at the Vancouver Farmers Market, she sells luscious rugs and woolen scarves she creates from recycled Pendleton yarns and fabric mill ends. She also creates table runners and placemats.

Rebecca Weaver at the Vancouver Farmers Market

I recently bought multiple scarves to share as gifts. You can give them as individual gifts or wrap them around other objects like soaps or candles — perfect for Made-in-the-Northwest presents. You’ll find Rebecca at the Vancouver Farmers Market throughout the fall season.

Rebecca's scarves with traditional Pendleton patterns

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September 21, 2010   3 Comments